The Movies Are Not Made For YOU

It’s Twiffidy’s turn for a nice little vacation and in her absence, we present the debut of a NEW Hunger Games blogger! ..Well, Satsuma here is a guest blogger, but she know her stuff!

Satsuma has got some strong, insightful opinions for all you readers who think the film should simply be fan service. Read and be enlightened!

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Well, if the VV admins accept this post, then I guess I might be starting off my official THG blogging career by ticking off many of my readers. But hopefully I’ll make you think a little.

I actually have two major points in this post. One is, as the title states, The Movies Are Not Made for You. The other is, as a related point, really, The Movies Are Not Books On Tape with Pictures.

Okay, back to The Movies Are Not Made for You. What do I mean? I mean, that the lovely producers, directors, screenwriters, casting coordinators, etc. that are in charge of creating the movies do NOT have you in mind when deciding who to cast, what scenes and dialogue to include, etc. They are NOT interested in who you, personally, dream about at night playing Finnick Odair, or what dialogue you’ve memorized so well that you can repeat it in your sleep. Or what costumes you might have doodled on a piece of lined, 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper when you’re supposed to be taking notes in class or in some business meeting. And so, if they don’t grant your every wish when it comes to the CF movie, they are NOT trying to make you cry and stomp your feet. Or throw the eventual Blu-Ray/DVD of the movie across your living room.

The Hunger Games Peeta Mellark Josh Hutcherson leg

…Except the whiners.

I can predict, for example, that CF is not going to have Peeta trip on a ice cube, fall down the stairs, and sustain a compound fracture of his left leg requiring amputation. Movie!Peeta is, officially, NOT bereft of any limbs, and this is NOT meant to be a personal insult to you. Also, I find this common complaint extremely ironic, and almost hypocritical, in light of the many examples of THG fanart I’ve seen that shows post-THG Peeta with either the most realistic-looking prosthesis ever invented, or with legs that are both composed of flesh and blood. I can also predict that, quite likely, the Avox story will NEVER make it into the movies. Well, at least, the CF movie. MJ being two movies, might give them room to slip them in. But again, if the introduction of the Avoxes is delayed until then, that’s not meant as a diabolical plan to make you pace the floor in frustrated anticipation.

Now, does this mean that I think there’s no point in discussing what we either wanted in the THG movie, or hope to see in the CF movie? No, not at all, and I’d be a hypocrite if I said that. I’ve made my displeasure at parts of THG, as well as hopes for what I want to see (or don’t want to see) in the CF movie, known on both Victor’s Village and other fansites. But at the end of the day, do I let thoughts of memorable Peeta lines that I wish, really wish, were included in the movie, keep me tossing and turning at night, unable to sleep? No. (My next-door neighbor’s stereo system, on the other hand…) That’s because I realize that in the end, I really shouldn’t let decisions made by people who live hundreds of miles from me, some of whom make hundred times the money I do, and who have likely had hundreds of people already tell them what they want from the movie, even though it’s impossible to meet every single one of their demands, actually cause me angst and agitation. Well, not beyond a few minutes worth, anyway.

The corollary to my premise, that movie-makers really aren’t trying to either fulfill every personal fantasy of every Hunger Games fan regarding casting, screenwriting, and directing, OR deliberately frustrate such fantasies, is that many of the differences between the books and the movies are simply due to there being, you know, a difference between a book and a movie. Some of the comments I’ve noticed, really make me wonder, do fans of this franchise want to see a movie, or a book-on-tape with cool pictures?

There is simply no way a movie with a run time of, say, two hours and 30 minutes, can include everything from a 400-page book. Not even TWO movies with run times of two hours and 30 minutes each. Yes, I even anticipate there will be some actual CUTS (oh, the humanity), made to the Mockingjay story; such as, I really don’t expect to see every single Katniss nightmare shown in agonizing detail. No way can a movie include every single syllable of dialogue, every single scene, even every single character from a book. (I know, the HUMANITY, again.) And, you know, there is much more to a successful movie adaptation, than exactly how many check boxes the avid THG fans can check off while using the light from their cell phones to follow along in the book they brought in with the popcorn, while scribbling notations in the margins to capture every supposed inconsistency.

I’m assuming most of you have seen actual movies that were based on original concepts and screenplays, not adaptations of books, cartoons, cancelled TV shows, or black-and-white old movie. (I know, such movies seem to be getting scarcer by the day, but they’re not completely extinct yet!) And the truth is that IS a difference between showing something in a visual medium, without a constant stream of words providing continuous narration, and reading a book that relies on words, not pictures. For example, the lack of Katniss voice-over in THG, which some people have criticized. But let’s take the scene where Katniss finds out that Peeta is with the Career Pack. In the book, she goes into bitter, angry detail about how she thinks he was just playing another game with her with his noble statements on the rooftop, and details her wish to see his face in the sky. Which, you know, is the same as wishing him dead.

Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games Clarissa Explains it All

Suzanne, why no Clarissa-style narration?!

So, let’s say that the screenwriters decide to have J-Law narrate a voice-over of this. Well, if we have her just sitting in a tree glaring down at the Careers while this voice-over unfolds, that’s probably at least a minute we devote to just this voice-over. As opposed to, you know, actual advancement of the story. In a 2hr 40 min, or 160 min, movie, one minute is 1/160th of the time. Which is the same, proportionally, as almost 3 pages of a 400 page book. Much more than the original few paragraphs. Now, I’m not saying voice-over should be completely banned, but overuse of it will turn a movie into, as I mentioned before, simply a book-on-tape with pretty pictures.

Suzanne Collins herself has stated that she sees the movies as *complementing* the books, not simply *complimenting* them with a sluggish word-by-word carbon copy of an adaptation. And the THG movie, while it deprived us of some parts of the book, such as Katniss’s narration, also showed us parts of Panem that we didn’t get to see (or, okay visualize, unless you’re withdrawing from white liquor, I hope you didn’t actually SEE scenes from a fictional book come to life in front of you). Such as the actual Game control room, Snow’s reaction, the D11 riot, and the ironic fate of Seneca Crane. Did I find it perfect? No. The lack of signature Bread Boy lines really does bother me, even if it doesn’t deprive me of beauty sleep. Mostly because Movie!Peeta winds up being such a different character, really, than Book!Peeta, much more than how Movie!Katniss is different from Book!Katniss. And I’m not talking about their eye color, or how “built” either of them are.

But that’s really more a complaint about something I see part of the essence of the book. And I guess I didn’t find the existence of Madge Undersee, the pronouncement of Effie Trinket’s name, or the mention of what you’re called after the Capitol cuts out your tongue for being a traitor, to be essential to the story. And I found enough of the essence of the tale to be present, that I really did find the movie to be a great ADAPTATION of the book. (Not perfect, but I also realize that a movie I saw as perfect would likely be horrible to at least a dozen other people.) I hope for the same for Catching Fire.

Again, I don’t mean to suggest that people should stop discussing issues of what they liked/didn’t like about THG, and what they hope/expect for CF (okay, to be exact, THG:CF). Just that, maybe, some of us might enjoy this ride a little more if we stopped taking things so personally, and realized that no book-to-movie adaptation is going to be a complete replica in terms of dialogue, character presentation, and overall story-line. And that taking a check-list approach to the movies is going to result in a much more diminished experience, than, well, to try to see it as a movie first, and as a book adaptation second.

Just a thought,
Satsuma

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16 comments

  1. I agree some details that were left out did annoy me a little bit but I thought the movie was a pretty good adaptation probably better than some of the Harry potters where heaps was left out.
    I think the movies are made for us fans though because what would be the point in making a movie everyone is going to hate and no one will watch? Movies are made with the audience in mind.
    But I think I see what you are saying which is its not made for individual people’s imaginations.

  2. I completely agree. Actually, I’ve been following this same thing myself for a long time, enjoying the ride at its whole instead of nitpicking at the minor things I do not like, and guess what, it is much more enjoyable this way 😀

    I enjoyed this blog posts, the same way as I enjoy your comments in the fansites, they’re great! 🙂 – can’t wait to read more from you!

  3. Bravo! I knew you would make a good blogger, Satsuma. Excellent points, well-constructed analysis, and a little ol’ thing my writing mentor calls, “Surprise!” (Surprise, in literary terms, is also known as “insight”.)

    I particularly like thinking about the movie as an adaptation of the book, meant as a complement and a compliment, not a replica. This week I’ve been researching various forms of media that have been inspired by Robert Frost poems; I found a short film, several paintings, a knitted shawl, and a silk screen. Are these other forms of media meant to be an exact replication of a Frost poem? No, and no one expects them to be. So why do we tend to have this unrealistic expectation from a favorite book adapted to a movie?

    To play devil’s advocate though, some adaptations are better than others, in their casting choices and camera filming choices. Anyone who’s watched multiple renditions of “Pride and Prejudice” can see that each may have had it’s own shining moments. Thousands, maybe millions, of women swooned over Colin Firth’s portrayal as Mr. Darcy in the British production. The Keira Kneightly version was more than a script… it had all these beautiful cinematic moments and interesting camera shots. However, the Mr. Darcy was stiff and not believable (sorry, actor guy, whoever you are). I kept wishing James McAvoy could be playing Mr. Darcy; he might be on the short side, but the guy can act his way out of a paper bag and his chemistry with Keira sizzled up the screen in “Atonement”.

    And some book adaptations add so much stuff that was not in the book, that it doesn’t even feel like the same source material. For example, in the second Chronicles of Narnia movie, half of the movie did not come from the book. HALF! That’s way past adaptation into something else. Another example that I cringe to mention, the Anne of Green Gables series was adapted into three films that are simply wonderful. Years later, the same director decided to make a fourth film; he used the same actors for characters with the same name but he COMPLETELY MADE UP THE STORY. He didn’t use any of the source material (of which the book Anne of Green Gables goes all the way until her children are grown). That feels like almost like plagiarism.

    Gary Ross did not do that. He included scenes that were not in the book, but it felt like a great addition. They gave us a visual peek into the world of sponsors,the Game Room, Seneca Crane, and President Snow. It felt like we were just seeing what was happening in a place where Katniss was not. But, in my opinion, Gary didn’t change Seneca or Snow from the essence of their characters in the book. He “enhanced” our understanding.

    But let me get back to your first point… as I shed a little tear that Lionsgate is not making this movie for me, then who, pray tell, are they making it for?

  4. Hi everyone! Thanks for the comments. I was being a little facetious in choosing the title of this post, and I was purposefully writing in the somewhat irreverent, sarcastic style I really enjoy in terms of the Victor’s Village regulars’ posts. I didn’t mean that Lionsgate isn’t making the movie for the fans, or that we should just sit back and accept all their choices without complaint. It’s just that it’s impossible for LG to please everyone, and I wanted people to think about what the core of the story is that is essential, and what is more in the realm of personal preference.

    Also, while I agree that the movie is made for the fans, I think the term “fan” I think is also something that means different things to different people. (Something I may tackle in another post later on.) I don’t think the movie was made just for die-hard fans who read and post on blogs like these. It’s also being made for people who never read the books, or perhaps read them once or twice but never got interested enough to get into the fandom. I myself started out as a casual fan, who didn’t know about the books until I saw the ads for the movie. Then I read the first book, then saw the movie. Then I learned about the other books and the Net fandom. I think that the movies have ushered in a whole new group of fans who might have stayed away if the movie hadn’t been so gripping as a movie, something that could stand alone without the books.

    I also think that some people really have no perspective into what parts of the story are essential, and what can be left out and not damage the narrative. My beef is with people who judged the movie almost solely by the criterion of “is it the same as the book” or “is it the same as how I imagined the book”. While I didn’t include it in my initial post/rant, another common gripe I recall is that the “mutts didn’t have the eyes of the dead tributes”. I think that the rationale GR and others gave for why they left this out, that it would actually be confusing for people who hadn’t read the books, that to explain this would take way too much movie time, is totally reasonable.

    It also seems from what GR has said in interviews, both in the past, and in the recent DVD special features, that he had a certain vision of the movie, and really tried to work based on that, and tried not to get too influenced by others. I think that while people may disagree on whether they agree with this vision,I think the first movie did have a very strong presence, not a watered-down one that might have developed if it had been made by consensus.

  5. Ugh, exactly! Fidelity in an adaption is not achieved by replicating every minute detail but in capturing the spirit of the book. If an omission impacts the feel of it or the messages it conveys, then you have the right to voice your complaints; the colour of a backpack, however, is not something worth going on a rant about. Also most people fail to understand the nature and narrative structure of film, but think they do, and then can’t see why some things have to be left out or changed.

    What particularly irritates me are people that don’t realise how much they have mentally amended or distorted descriptions in the book. They create their own image of something in their head and then bitch about how the film is failing to match their entirely made up ideas. Sometimes they will even claim that their personal embellishments were literally there in black in white in the book. :major facepalm:

  6. Really enjoyed the post satsuma, and as Abel Toy mentioned I enjoy your comments elsewhere too 🙂 I have to agree with what Katie said too regarding personal embellishments, an example that springs to mind is Johanna having dark hair. I haven’t read MJ recently so please correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the only reference to her hair in CF and it simply states that it is short and spiky? Yet somehow it’s considered gospel fact that she is brunette. Don’t even get me started on what people think the colour bronze is in relation to Finnick’s hair… It’s these minor quibbles that a very small proportion of the fans can’t seem to get past, which is a shame because I really enjoyed the film. As with everything though it seems that the smallest group makes the loudest noise.

    I too think Suzanne summed it best when she was the first to say the movie complemented the book, and you’ve carried the theme on, plus as has been mentioned we got to see other aspects of the book that weren’t necessarily described in full and that’s what makes me excited for Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2 (and CF too). Plus, I think people always forget that they can pick up the book again and again to relive the moments that weren’t included, just because they didn’t make the film doesn’t make them ‘lost forever’. I really hope that Francis Lawrence continues to take some liberties, as well as remaining faithful to the tone and themes of the book (I thought THG did a great job of making me feel the same emotions watching the film as I did when reading the book) and gives us some more scenes outside of Katniss’ perspective. As HGBC said above too, I hope CF enhances my understanding, and I’m sure we’ll get another great product 🙂

  7. Satsuma, as usual, you’ve given a clear argument: Lionsgate making a movie for fans (including fans who have never read the books) does not equal making a movie for me personally (or you or whoever). And they just can’t do it all in 2 1/2 hours; they can’t include everything from the book; they can’t get every detail exactly like the book.

    A vision must be cast and then pursued to make a cohesive movie. Hopefully, Francis Lawrence’s vision for CF will contain the essence of each character and the spirit of the books in this particular adaptation.

  8. Thanks again for the great posts! I figure I should also clarify that I am NOT saying that people shouldn’t criticize the movies at all. I’m just calling for some fans to step back, take a deep breath, and try to see the forest, not just the trees. I think the criticism of GR and company for not being more clear about Katniss and Peeta’s relationship status at the end of THG was certainly justifiable, because that is a very major plot point. From Josh’s recent comments about Peeta feeling conflicted by having to “act in love” with Katniss when he’s really in love while she’s not, and how he loved the CF script, I do think this will be cleared up in CF. It also seems that the casting calls for extremely thin extras for “The Idiom” may be a response to another criticism, that THG really did not emphasize the “Hunger” aspect of the Hunger Games.

    But, for example, my whole rant about how it’s okay that Movie!Peeta doesn’t have a fake leg; that was mostly in response to an actual fan request I saw as a response to that Facebook posting by Francis Lawrence asking for fan input shortly after he was officially named director. There was at least one fan who wanted F-Law to come up with some tragic accident early in CF that results in Peeta getting his leg amputated after all. I remember my mouth dropping open when I read that, and hoping desperately that Lawrence did NOT take that poster as a typical THG fan. And I thought, “So you want Francis to just make up a story from scratch to explain this, using up limited movie time that could be used to actually film the story from the book?” It just seemed to be a classic case of missing the forest for the trees.

    Anyway, though I do applaud him for seeking fan input, I also think that F-Law has his own vision of the story, and I hope it serves the CF movie well.

  9. Just on a practical note, I was assuming that the casting call for extremely thin people was for the 2 Morphlings. If so (which means unknown extras, not known experienced actors), I’m thinking that the Morphlings are not going to have some of the interactions with Peeta that some fans were hoping for.

    I agree that they didn’t really emphasize the “hunger” aspect of the Games that much in THG. Could have even been done with adding some dialogue, such as when Katniss gives Rue some roasted meat and she responds with something like, “a whole leg, just for me?”

    1. Hey HGBC: I went back to the VV blog post at
      http://victorsvillage.com/2012/08/02/catching-fire-the-idiom/
      and actually, the casting call stated “SEEKING VERY THIN TYPES-SEVERELY THIN” before listing the different “types” that seemed to correspond with Districts 3, 6, 8, 11, and 12. So it does seem that they are looking for thin extras to populate many of the districts, not just D6 (where the morphlings come from).

      Now, this might be in response to the criticism, or it might just be a sign that Francis Lawrence is going to emphasize different aspects of the dystopia. THG seemed to focus more on the quasi-fascist oppression through force as represented by Snow and the Capitol. and the Games themselves as a symbol of oppression, but not as much on the socioeconomic disparities in Panem. Or perhaps they didn’t want Jen Lawrence to look so much more well-nourished than her neighbors. This won’t be as much of an issue in CF because by the time the Victory Tour begins, she’s had six months of being showered in riches and luxury as a Victor, and it would be quite plausible that she looks well-fed while the people she sees in the Districts are thin and starving.

      1. OK, thanks for figuring that out! That will be interesting to see how it plays out. Yes, I’ve been hoping they wouldn’t make Jennifer lose 15 lbs again like last time since she should be well fed as a Victor.

        In Target’s tribute diaries, Jack Quaid said they weren’t allowed to eat carbs during filming. He describes this miment finding brad in hotel and pushing it away, “Not Today!”

  10. Sorry for misspellings above; I’m typing on phone. I meant a moment when Jack saw bread. The kids weren’t starving but they were hungry.

    Maybe they will do scene with Peeta/Katniss discovering that Capitol citizens gorge and purge so they can eat more, when Districts are starving.

  11. Actually I’d have to disagree with you about the “Movies aren’t made for you part”… Movies are made for the consumer… If they weren’t made with the consumer in mind there would be no reason to cast accordingly or on who the director favored… Additionally do you think rumors are rumors because they are leaked by an unknown source? Personally I think and have seen other “rumors” leaked to gage the public investment in the movie… Also, if movies weren’t made for the customer then why would anyone see it and additionally no revenues would be made to fund sequels…

  12. Well, obviously, movies are made for the consumer. I’m not saying that movie-makers don'[t care about fan reactions, nor am I saying that consumer reaction doesn’t affect movie-makers; of course it does. Francis Lawrence himself invited fans to weigh in on Facebook. And if THG:CF winds up paying more attention to the romance than the original movie, or makes other changes, some of this very well may be in response to criticism of the first movie.

    But, The point I was trying to make is that a movie is not made for to satisfy every single consumer preference, because that would be impossible, and that no one individual should expect to get everything they want out of a movie adaptation (or movies in general). That’s all.

    As for rumors: I’m sure some casting rumors and such were leaked by LG people themselves; others were likely leaked by actors’ agents and others in the biz. Not sure what that has to do with the topic I was discussing, though.

  13. Great posting Satsuma and the comments have only added to the enjoyment of this blog so far. I also enjoy your postings in the “by the book section” of Mockingjay.net. I wanted to pick up on one comment you made about Movie!Peeta and Movie!Katniss. You suggested that you thought that there was a bigger gulf between Movie!Peeta and Book!Peeta compared to the Katniss character. I think it is important to point out the obvious that in the book, Book!Peeta only exists through Katniss’ eyes. The book is a first person narrative so Katniss’ perspective is all we have to go on for all the characters, her description builds the entire environment. Moving to a movie means all of the characters step out from behind Katniss and become persons that we can see and relate to ourselves without going through Katniss.

    I believe this two part transition, from book to movie and from Katniss’ perspective to our own, could account for the bigger gulf between the book and movie for all of the characters except Katniss. For Katniss, we are very comfortable with her arc as that is the focus of the books, the books are about her. Even though I read the book after watching the movie, the depiction of her rang true for me. But like you, I came away with a slightly different understanding of the Peeta character. But it is not clear which part of the transition is responsible for that.

    I believe that because of the linear nature of the first book’s plot, we will likely look back and comment that it is the part of the trilogy where the movie (THG) is most aligned with the book. In CF and MJ there are lots of cul de sacs that are going to be left out for pacing, continuity issues and simplicity. You described one regarding the physical deformity that befalls Peeta. Other likely similar examples include the lashing that Katniss receives trying to rescue Gale and her injury jumping down from the tree over the fence. Our heroine is too vital to the story to get banged up in a way that is not completely reversible without some magic potion (see face scar from Clove’s knife and deep burns from the Gamesmaker’s fireball, both rendered healed within minutes/seconds in the movie by magic potions). You can’t do that with a lashing across the face or broken bones due to a fall.

    Again wonderful posting and I enjoy the back and forth that initiates.

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